Bill calls for open source look

Oregon HB 2892

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A bill recently introduced in the Oregon legislature requires state agencies to consider the use of open-source software in any decisions on information technology purchases.

If it passes, Oregon would be one of the first states to recognize the growing open-source movement in its statutes.

Under the terms of the bill, state agencies committed to proprietary software could continue to use it but would have to consider open-source software, such as Linux, as a new option. Agencies would also have to justify the purchase of proprietary software when open-source software is available for the same purpose.

Oregon Rep. Phil Barnhart, who introduced the bill, said he already has a commitment from the co-chairman of the House General Government Committee, Rep. Jerry Krummel, for a hearing on the bill sometime in the coming month if it is assigned to that panel.

"The bill also talks about the need for open standards in general," Barnhart said. "A big part of the issue we in government are faced with is that we have some very complex databases that will need to operate in tandem, and right now it's very difficult to move to where a database in one agency can connect with a database in another agency" because of the use of proprietary systems.

Another concern is the huge budget deficit facing Oregon, "which is a lot more serious than many people realize," he said. Judicious use of open-source software and open standards could help save the state a substantial amount of the money spent on IT.

Moving to open-source software might also mean more jobs for consultants and other companies in Oregon's high-tech Silicon Forest, he said, which has been hard hit by the collapse of the technology sector in the past couple of years.

Finally, greater security concerns may also drive people to open-source software.

"Some of the big software companies have said they are building their products so they can monitor their use over the Internet," Barnhart said. "We have to maintain the confidentiality of much of our data, and by using open source software, we won't have to submit to these kinds of license-use checks."

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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